Clive Barker jumped onto the horror scene in 1984 with the release of his landmark short story collection, Books of Blood. The collection of short stories was released from 1984 to 1985 and became instant must-read material for the horror community.
With such an ambitious project, you’d think there would be a clunker or two within the original three volumes but this is Clive Barker we are talking about here. It’s more difficult to pick a favorite out of the collection than it is to pinpoint one that actually misses the mark.
Alas, a selection was decided upon and tonight’s Library of Terror spotlight splashes over one of the most terrifying monsters in literature history, a nine-foot demigod who wreaks havoc on a small town in England when it is awoken from a cursed sleep.
Ladies and gentlemen, be forewarned – this is a short story that packs a lot of stomach-churning grue into a short amount of pages. I present to you, Rawhead Rex.
Rawhead Rex is a hulking abomination unleashed from its centuries-old burial ground by an unsuspecting farmer one day. After brutally killing the poor farmer, Rawhead is hellbent on destroying anyone in its path. Ferocious and blood-thirsty, the monster goes on a murderous rampage in order to regain the power the being once had.
Rawhead doesn’t discriminate with his killings – devouring children, castrating a police officer with is claw before setting him on fire, and making his way to the local church. He doesn’t take long to corrupt the local Verger and the two of them end up killing the Vicar. Barker, never one to shy away from religious imagery and arguably blasphemous destruction of audiences’ idols of worship, is pumping on all cylinders here. It’s not every day you get a story where a monster gives a corrupted religious figure a golden shower.
The only way to stop Rawhead is to use its one fear against it – an idol of a pregnant women. Rawhead hates women in general, but especially when they are pregnant. The sight of an expecting woman is this monster’s kryptonite, as Rawhead is a not-so-veiled depiction of man’s sex drive.
Rawhead is eventually disposed of by the townsfolk, with the father of one of Rawhead’s last victims bashing the monster’s head in with the pergnant woman idol. The monster is dead. Or so we are led to believe. Rawhead’s bladder leaks out and the liquid flows down to a ditch, where the reader is left wondering whether or not the monster can reanimate itself in the future.
The story features some of the most terrifying imagery in horror literature, in this writer’s opinion. One can almost hear the crackling of a child’s bones as Rawhead devours the helpless kid in front of the boy’s horrified father. The father exacts revenge at the end of the story by delivering the death blow to Rawhead.
This story is just one of many downright horrific installments in Clive Barker’s Books of Blood series, so do yourself a favor and grab a copy on Amazon. Or you might get lucky like I did and find the paperback novels at your local thrift store for twenty-five cents each! Either way, challenge your gag reflex to not waver and check out this story right away!
Until next time, folks… Happy reading!